Preparing and presenting your case: Use emotions when appropriate

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo


Emotion is a powerful persuasive tool. In fact, the ideal case is one where the judge not only is mandated to give what your client is asking for (because your case is solidly supported by the facts and law), but is also emotionally charged to do so (because he feels that what he is doing is what is morally right.) We are all too familiar with that adage "what is legal may not necesssarily be moral."

When building your case, therefore, be alert to facts that you can use to bolster the emotional persuasiveness of your case.

For instance, we were the private prosecutor in a criminal case for robbery with homicide and our lawyer was examining on direct the widow of the victim. The initial stages of the direct examination was not going as smoothly as it should because the judge was a bit strict in observing the rules of direct examination, sometimes pointing out by himself - without the defense attorneys objecting - how some questions are objectionable and directing our lawyer to re-phrase.

Fortunately, our lawyer recognized this early enough. He abandoned his outline and proceeded instead to ask the widow first for the background of the victim. She answered that he was a decorated high-ranking police officer, identifying the many citations which he received during his service. She also said that he was an honest cop; that, at the time that he was shot, he was driving the family van and ferrying passengers just to augment the family income. She also said that, at the wake of her husband, several high ranking officers of the police force as well as officials of government attended.

When asked how she felt about the loss of her husband, the widow broke down and was unable to answer immediately, crying profusely while on the stand. She then said that her husband was a dedicated husband and father to their children; that, aside from driving their van for passengers, he also sold pork meat to neighbors just to add to his meager income and support the family.

The testimony had the desired effect. From then on, the direct went along without much interruption from the judge; in fact, we felt that his demeanour towards the prosecution changed and he became more tolerant. The courtroom became silent (we were even told by a court personnel that some people at the back were also in tears while the examination was on-going) and even the defense counsels asked but just a few questions on cross-examination (perhaps recognizing that it will not do them good to make this witness cry again on cross).

And it cannot be said that we were callous in using the widow's sentiments to further the case because that was precisely what she felt at the time. On the other hand, we will be remiss in our duty if we did not do what we have done because at the end of the day, that's what we were hired to do: we are our client's voice.